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Senior Citizen's Guide to Cleveland

Heart Health and Diet

These general guidelines provide basic information to help you start lowering your cholesterol until your appointment with a registered dietitian, the nutrition expert.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance and a fat. Too much cholesterol leads to a build-up of fatty materials and debris (called plaque) on the walls of the arteries supplying blood to the heart and other organs. Some cholesterol is needed by the body. In fact, cholesterol plays a role in normal body functions, including the formation of cell walls, production of hormones, and manufacture of bile acids, which are needed for digestion. Because the liver has the ability to make all the cholesterol our bodies need, there is no need for extra cholesterol in the diet.

High blood cholesterol = increased risk for heart disease

Plaque can narrow the passageway inside the artery and block the flow of blood to the heart muscle, causing a heart attack. You can reduce your risk by eating foods low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Including foods that contain unsaturated fats, exercising regularly, and losing weight, if needed, can also reduce your heart risks.

What do the numbers mean?

Blood cholesterol levels are measured by a blood test called a lipid profile. The lipid profile measures total cholesterol, triglycerides, high density lipoproteins (HDL - the "good" cholesterol*) and low density lipoprotein (LDL- the "bad" cholesterol**).

* HDL is known as the "good" cholesterol because it helps carry cholesterol away from the walls of the arteries and transport it to the liver to excrete it. The higher your HDL number is, the better.
**LDL is known as the bad cholesterol because it carries a large amount of cholesterol in the blood and is responsible for depositing cholesterol in the walls of the blood vessels. The lower your LDL number is, the better.
*** Risk factors include: high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, smoking, low HDL, high LDL, family history of heart disease, age, male gender, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Total cholesterolLess than 200200-239Greater than 240
TriglyceridesLess than 150150-199200-400
HDLGreater than 60 (Less than 40 is considered a risk for heart disease)  
LDLLess than 100 (or less than 70 if you have 2 or more risk factors***)130-159160-189

Goals for healthy lifestyle eating

Cholesterol-lowering goals:

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